An old friend named Adam Demartino got in touch recently and asked me, "Do you want some fancy mushrooms?"
It's not an inquiry that I took lightly. He sent me this photo:
And I said, "OH HELL YEAH, DUDE!"
It was like a culinary drug deal
It turns out that Adam lived very close to my apartment, so I walked over. He produced an Amazon box from his fridge, like one that would hold several books. When he opened it, my emotions were a blur. I slightly remember hearing words like mycelium and how Smallhold's distributed farming worked. He gave me these mushrooms to see what I could do with them. I was up for the challenge!
I also packed a small gift my pocket: a small vial of Pangasinan salt that I had blended with dried shiitake mushroom and tarragon. Adam's eyes widened and quickly searched for a surface to pour it out on. He settled for a piece of junk mail and tapped a bit of salt out of the bottle like it was cocaine. This was going to be a fun partnership, I could tell.
Here's what I learned
As soon as I got home, I started texting this photo to my friends; 1) for the laugh and 2) because I couldn't think of anything but making very large vegan scallops with these mushrooms. I went on a quest to find out how other people prepared them.
King Oyster (or also called King Trumpet) mushrooms are moist, canvases for flavor. Most other mushroom stalks are way too tiny to do anything with except make stock. King Oyster's iconic thick stalks are striated enough to act like crab, lobster or scallop.
Here's what I made
ROY-L-T. 👑 (Recipe coming soon)
One of my first findings was Serious Eats vegan mushroom bacon. Sign me up for anything-bacon, really. The only change I made was simply smoking on a grill. If you put a little too much maple syrup on the pan during the last round of drying in the oven, it makes this fun, savory candy you can peel off. The results are crispy, sweet, salty and spicy. You can store them in an air-tight container on the counter. Naturally I made a BLT.
Queen Rachel 👑 (Recipe coming soon)
In the same vein as meat-substitute, I thought about what other kinds I could make. I started by running a couple of the smaller king oysters through the mandoline set to 1/8". Mushrooms are like sponges. When cooking them, you have to devise ways to wring them out with either heat or physical pressure and then to infuse them. If you don't get rid of the initial moisture, you're left with soggy mushies (and we hate those, don't we?).
I smoked a sheet pan of mushrooms until they lost a little volume, almost like mushroom chips. Then I brushed them with a healthy dose of pastrami butter (seasonings from this recipe) folded with a couple drops of red food colors to give it that signature pink color. Did you know? When you make a reuben with pastrami, it's called a Rachel.
Fresh lumpiang kabute 🍄 (Work in progress)
Continuing with the thought of drying out mushrooms in sheets, I started to tackle the very large king oyster. It made no sense to just cut the mushroom up and treat it as normal, I wanted to demonstrate what you could do with its unique length. I've never seen a mushroom with this long of a stalk. I had a difficult time slicing consistent sheets of it with my mandoline because the fungi is so squishy and my blade was simply not wide enough.
In the Philippines, there are many kinds of lumpia or what we Americans know as eggrolls. One of my favorite kinds is just called fresh lumpia, which is a vegetable stir fry wrapped in a very delicate crepe and topped with a thick garlic sauce. Instead of putting the sauce on top of my mushroom, I thought to infuse it and use the sheet as a wrapper.
I started by drying the mushroom sheets in the oven on low at 200 degrees F. Once they looked dehydrated, I soaked them in vegetable broth spiked with a lot of raw garlic. The sheets became pliable! I made a quick stir fry with pork sausage and mushroom scraps and wrapped them in a mushroom sheet. It was a little hard to bite through, perhaps needs more time to soak.
"Stroganoff" 🐮 (Recipe coming soon)
I had several broth-soaked mushroom sheets left and I cut them into fettuccine noodles. Excellent because it already had a vegetable flavor from the broth and could adhere to sauce like stroganoff, a power chord of taste. I chose stroganoff because it normally has mushrooms in it but what if the mushrooms were the noodles?
Topped the whole thing with rare AF grilled adobo skirt steak because, I had not had a lick of meat throughout this whole experiment and I was growing blood-thirsty.
Surf n' dirt 🌊 (Work in progress)
Making scallops with king oyster mushrooms isn't new. But I wanted to play with the idea of making them taste more like seafood. I was going to try infusing them with lobster juice but my stock of it did not keep very well in my freezer. I kept going but cooked thick mushroom coins sous vide with truffle, thyme and garlic at 150 for 4 hours. I wrung them out and poached them in chive goat butter. Served with luscious mashed potato with the rest of the goat butter and a pinch of sumac.
Pulled Porque 🐷 (Recipe coming soon)
I had mentioned that king oyster mushroom is striated, like strings packed together. I took all of my scraps and sous vide cooked them in another bag with garlic adobo marinade. The next day, I pulled them with forks like I would pork. It was surprising! I tossed the strings with brown sugar and broiled them until the top layer was crisp.
Stay tuned for links to the recipes as I finish developing them! If you have more mushroom suggestions, I'd love to hear them. Tweet me @Randwiches.